Garry Kasparov, a master chess player from Russia, writes an article in the Wall Street Journal about the Iraq war from a chess player’s point of view.
For the past few years, the dictators and terrorists have been gaining ground, and with good reason. The deepening catastrophe in Iraq has distracted the world’s sole superpower from its true goals, and weakened the U.S. politically as well as militarily. With new congressional leadership threatening to make the same mistake–failing to see Iraq as only one piece of a greater puzzle–it is time to return to the basics of strategic planning.
Thirty years as a chess player ingrained in me the importance of never losing sight of the big picture. Paying too much attention to one area of the chessboard can quickly lead to the collapse of your entire position. America and its allies are so focused on Iraq they are ceding territory all over the map. Even the vague goals of President Bush’s ambiguous war on terror have been pushed aside by the crisis in Baghdad.
The U.S. must refocus and recognize the failure of its post-9/11 foreign policy. Pre-emptive strikes and deposing dictators may or may not have been a good plan, but at least it was a plan. However, if you attack Iraq, the potential to go after Iran and Syria must also be on the table. Instead, the U.S. finds itself supervising a civil war while helplessly making concessions elsewhere.
What impresses me about Kasparov’s essay is that he is looking at the Middle East, as a chess player, always three moves ahead. To me he makes a lot of sense.
So what then, to do? “Mission accomplished” jokes aside, the original goals in Iraq–deposing Saddam Hussein and holding elections–have been achieved. Nation-building was never on the agenda, and it should not be added now. All the allied troops in the world aren’t going to stop the Iraqi people from continuing their civil war if this is their choice. As long as Muslim leaders in Iraq and elsewhere are unwilling to confront their own radical elements, outsiders will be spectators in the line of fire.
As for stability, if allied troops leave Iraq: What stability? I won’t say things can’t get worse–if we’ve learned anything, it’s that things in the Middle East can always get worse; but at least the current deadly dynamic would be changed. And with change there is always hope for improvement. Without change, we are expecting a different result from the same behavior, something once defined as insanity.
Read the whole article.